Premier challenges ECP’s jurisdiction

The chief election commissioner remarked that the commission would decide the jurisdiction issue first


Our Correspondent October 11, 2016
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday challenged the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hear disqualification petitions against him over concealment of assets, including offshore companies revealed in the Panama Papers.

Former attorney general Salman Butt, who appeared on behalf of the prime minister, in his written reply argued that the commission was not the appropriate forum to hear such petitions.

“The prime minister has denied association with any of the offshore companies mentioned in the Panama leaks.”

Butt also represents Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz, the prime minister’s son-in-law Captain (retd) Mohammad Safdar, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

During the last hearing, a full bench of the commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, had agreed to decide the issue of jurisdiction first, but asked the respondents to submit written replies with respect to the allegations levelled against them before the next hearing, fixed for October 10.

The PPP, PTI, PAT and AML in their petitions asked the ECP to disqualify the prime minister and his close relatives from parliament accusing them of concealing their family assets abroad.

The respondent said, as per the constitution, any such reference against an elected member of parliament or a provincial legislature should come through the National Assembly speaker. “In case of accusations against the prime minister, the speaker has already dismissed such references.”

“Moreover, the petitioners did not get any order from a court to file wherein any of the allegations levelled were proven. Hence, such references cannot the taken up by the commission.

“This Honourable Commission is mandated under law to adjudicate upon the question of its jurisdiction to entertain the reference at the first instance and the merits thereof can only be considered if this Honourable Commission is satisfied that it does have the jurisdiction in respect of the same; otherwise, the instant proceedings will prove to be an exercise in futility,” the prime minister said in his reply.

The chief election commissioner remarked that the commission would decide the jurisdiction issue first before moving ahead with the petitions. On the request of the government’s counsel, the hearing of the case was adjourned till November 2. The commission will also take up the references against PTI leaders Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen on the same date that were forwarded to it by the National Assembly speaker.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2016.

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